BPC’s National Transportation Policy Project Emphasizes Need for a Careful and Effective Transition to New Transportation Program
June 23, 2010
Washington, D.C. - A new report released today by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) asserts that several steps should be taken immediately, during the extension of current surface transportation law, to build the necessary foundation and capacity to begin transitioning to a performance-based federal transportation policy. The report, Transitioning to a Performance-Based Federal Surface Transportation Policy, calls for the defining of national performance measures, and the refinement of existing state and local measures to begin the shift toward performance-based transportation policies.
Since the release of its blueprint for surface transportation reform, Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy, last June, NTPP has been working to move to a U.S. transportation program with clear metrics and incentives for the achievement of national goals. Specifically, NTPP recommends that transportation investments be held accountable for demonstrating results in the areas of economic growth, metropolitan accessibility, national connectivity, environmental protection and energy security, and safety. Given the current fiscal condition of the federal government and growing consensus on the severity of the long-term debt crisis, NTPP advocates for transportation investments that are strategic, wise, and accountable.
In March, NTPP hosted a workshop with a diverse group of transportation leaders, including current and former Congressional staff, state department of transportation CEOs, public transit authority General Managers, a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Director, advocacy associations, academic thought leaders and transportation officials from Australia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The NTPP report released today details the discussions and deliberations from that conference.
“While I think that there is lots of agreement that moving toward a performance-based system is the right thing to do,” said Rob Puentes, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and one of the conference participants. “Until this conference, we had not had the conversation about exactly what you need to measure and how you go about implementing it. The federal government needs to make a major investment in data, information and analytical collection.”
The NTPP report recommends several steps the U.S. can take immediately, while operating under a series of extensions, to move federal surface transportation policy toward a more performance-driven framework. The report calls on states and MPOs to conduct an inventory and assessment of existing institutional capacity and data collecting techniques. Developing a clear baseline would serve as a critical first step for gauging available resources and would help inform an understanding of the timeline, resources and strategies necessary for full-scale development of a performance-based transportation system.
At a briefing on Capitol Hill today, NTPP co-chair and former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert emphasized the need for transportation policy reform. “Moving toward a performance-driven framework will require deliberate and careful steps,” said Boehlert. “However, the goal of a performance-driven federal transportation policy, and ultimately a more competitive and prosperous nation, is so critical that no time can afford to be wasted laying the foundation for moving such policies forward.”
The report proposes that existing federal funds should be dedicated to the research and development of tools for establishing metrics and collecting data. In addition to research and development at the federal level, pilot programs are needed through which states and MPOs could begin rigorous testing of the application of national goals and performance measures.
“Infrastructure, particularly our surface transportation network, is the backbone of our economy. Infrastructure must be a national priority and we must invest in a way that provides real results, emphasizes improved system performance, and addresses national priorities, otherwise our economic competitiveness will be at risk,” said Janet Kavinoky, a participant at the conference and Director of Transportation Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In its report, NTPP also outlines opportunities for implementation within a future authorization bill, including application of performance measures to existing safety and asset management programs. The next transportation authorization bill could refine and strengthen the existing Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) to make it more performance-based, and should also include a new performance-based asset management project with incentives for the development and reporting of core national performance metrics. Similarly, outcome-oriented performance measures could also be applied to new or existing discretionary programs, like a renewed freight or Project of National and Regional Significance (PNRS) program, in a future authorization bill.
“This extension period offers us an important opportunity to lay the groundwork for a bold reformation of federal transportation policy,” said Joshua Schank, Director of Transportation Research at the BPC. “Certain preliminary steps, like testing of national performance measures, should be included in any further extension of current surface transportation law and should be an integral part of the next multi-year authorization bill. The shift to a performance-based system must be a deliberate, dynamic process with extensive collaboration between local, state and federal officials, but it requires substantial federal leadership and legislative action.”
Click here to read the full report.
NTPP was launched with the goal of bringing fresh dialogue and approaches to transportation policy. NTPP is co-chaired by former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), former Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Martin Sabo (D-MN), and former Mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer. To learn more about NTPP, please visit www.bipartisanpolicy.org.
National Transportation Policy Project